Farmworker bill shot down
OAKLAND, Calif. -- California, along with many other agricultural states across the country, has been suffering from a shortage of farmworkers. At times, crops rot in the field, are not fully harvested or simply are not planted. Many farmers have...
OAKLAND, Calif. -- California, along with many other agricultural states across the country, has been suffering from a shortage of farmworkers. At times, crops rot in the field, are not fully harvested or simply are not planted. Many farmers have switched from planting high-value fruits and vegetables to subsidized row crops that are less labor intensive.
For decades, a large sector of U.S. agriculture has depended on migrant workers, mostly illegal.
With such a complex and inadequate system of legal entry to the United States and the recent crackdowns on illegal immigration, the shortage of farmworkers has become worse. At the same time, the majority of foreigners seeking jobs on farms come here illegally, without background checks, and they are exposed to exploitation.
To address this problem, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, have proposed an immigration reform measure targeting farmworkers.
The Emergency Agriculture Relief Act would have given U.S. farmers better access to legal migrant workers. It sought to permit farmworkers who are in the United States illegally temporary resident status for five years.
Unfortunately, it failed.
The measure is a good start. Certainly, the current system of overly burdensome work visa requirements and a lack of enforcement of current immigration laws is not working.
The Feinstein-Craig measure was the latest effort to bring some kind of order to filling the need for guest workers in agriculture. It should be reintroduced.